WOODBURY, CT - Fenn Gallery's First Anniversary exhibit, "2 Artists from Russia", features paintings by Svetlana Rumak and Zufar Bikbov. The show runs from Oct. 27th-Dec. 4th. A Champagne Reception with live music on Sat., Oct. 29th from 2-6 pm is open to the public. Fenn Gallery has assembled an exhibition of 18 figurative paintings by Svetlana Rumak of Moscow, Russia and 12 abstract paintings by Zufar Bikbov, formerly of Kazan, Russia. All artwork is new work being exhibited in the US for the first time.
Ms. Rumak's enigmatic work is a rich synthesis of her unique visual vocabulary with medieval russian iconoclasm. The canvases are inhabited by humans and animals rendered in an earthy palette, set against very stylized but highly textured backgrounds. Like medieval Orthodox icons, her people have enlarged almond eyes with an otherworldly cast and long straight noses. The elongated figures seem weightless, and float in a spiritual atmosphere of spacelessness, without mass or shadow-casting volume. Also typical of icons, Rumak juxtaposes flat figures in ornately patterned garments with more fully modeled heads.
"Letter from Home" depicts a man suited in armor aside a woman, within whose cupped hands floats a miniature house. The figures preoccupied gaze does not engage. The crimson background is over painted with a tapestry of gold-leafed roses, and part of the woman's profile becomes the background. The layers of symbolism are many fold. Is the man her knight in shining armor and the roses symbolic of paradise, as in medieval art? This idyllic interpretation is undermined by the presence of the tiny home which hovers, does not rest, in the woman's hands. Does it suggest the elusiveness and ambiguity which can underlie traditional concepts of home and relationships? Ms. Rumak has a BFA, exhibits in Europe, and is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts of Tatarstan.
Also on display are the abstract paintings by the emerging artist Zufar Bikbov. Educated as a representational painter in Russia, Bikbov has been successfully exploring the possibilities of abstract painting since moving to the US several years ago. Bikbov demonstrates his mastery of color and composition in works like "Golden River". The central focus in this gestural piece is a widening band of color ranging from gold ochres to persimmon to burgundy, suggesting an elevated view of a meandering river. Soft-edged, liquidy brushstrokes in garnet and cream nestle around "the river". The painting exemplifies Bikbov's development of a nonrepresentational language to express his fascination with the mysteries in man and nature. Bikbov has a degree in art from the Zelendoisk Youth Art School, has exhibited in both Russia and the US, and is in international collections.
The art of Svetlana Rumak represents the direction in the development of the art that is based on the lexicon of the art of the 20th century. At that, her paintings are always filled with quotations, references to various historic times, and the subcultures of the present.
Reminders of historic styles of art - Russian art of the 18th century, the Renaissance, the Supremacism of the beginning of the 20th century - are not accented, though, since all this complex mix of unobtrusive citations passes through ingenuousness of artist's touches and disposition of the naive (or, alternatively, primitive) art, always preferring expressiveness and specificity to boring verisimilitude, and always organically refusing any pathos. Everything simplifies itself and becomes softer and more delicate.
The deformation and grotesque acuteness of the form; symbolism; flattening of space allows to achieve bright figurative expressiveness, solving artistic problems not by reproduction of the visible - but, rather, of the notional. In the context of fine art terminology one can say that the artist develops post-modernist (trans-avangard, more precisely) direction of the art in the second half of the 20th century, when overall style is being based on choice, or combination of choices, of different historic art systems equal in their significance and relevance.
But, in the case of Svetlana Rumak's art we are more inclined to examine not the subtleties of her plastic touches, but rather the substance, which she uncovers through them. The artist aspires to understand the problems of soul's being; she is interested in such themes as connection of generations, childhood memories, the fragility of humans life, an unsettled state of human in this world, and the complexity of associative relations in the cultural memory.
The art of Svetlana is simultaneously simple and complex. The tender freaks in her paintings may repulse some, but those who get the main inflexion already fully accept her world. Her art is for those who do not perceive the world unambiguously or literally, and the "unbearable lightness of being" does not result in pessimism; it is for those who understands the theatrical nature of the art, which, by the highest standards, is always a reflection of life - since life itself is a game. Svetlana's art is for those who love warm and soulful painting.